Killer Interview Question: How Old Were You When You Got Your First Job?

Another addition to the killer interview questions collection: how old were you when you got your first job?

Worker picture from Shutterstock

As advertising executive Hannah Paramore points out in a New York Times interview, the question helps establish your work ethic:

If they worked part time in high school and college because they needed to, especially in jobs that were just hard work that shows a huge level of personal responsibility. I love people who have to patch success together from a number of different angles.

Lying is rarely a good idea in a job interview, but if you were someone who studied all the way through high school rather than working and you sense that saying that won't go over well, you could always bend the truth a little and lower the age when you started. No-one is going to check with your putative teenage boss. But pick a job you have worked in — if you flat-out lie and say you worked at KFC and it turns out your interviewer did too, it's going to be a tricky fiction to sustain. Also bear in mind that the age at which you can legally start working varies.

How would you answer the question?

Hannah Paramore, On Keeping Strengths From Running Amok [New York Times via Business Insider]


    I read a job interview question recently in "Flash Boys" by Michael Lewis.

    Q: Is 3599 a prime number?

      And that's supposed to show.... what? That you can do factorisation?

        Sort of... It's supposed to indicate that you can spot a pattern, and perform simple high school maths from that point on. You are supposed to spot that 3600 is a square (i.e. 60^2, which is sort of common considering it's the number of seconds in an hour) and 3599 is 1 less than 3600. That makes it a difference of 2 squares i.e. 60^2 - 1^2, which is easy to factorise into (60-1)*(60+1).

          Hmmmmmm, I suppose. I guess it doesn't help that I barely passed Maths 1 in Yr 12 and haven't used anything more advanced than it since then, and Wall St HFT is somewhere that maths skills would probably be useful.

    What a useless question, because you have no way of knowing whether that person actually had any personal responsibility. How do you know if that person slacked off through their highschool/uni job at KFC and still never studied, or if they worked 40hrs a week and studied 80hrs?

    Plus what do you want out of a role, someone who applied themselves at their studies because they didn't work, might be able to out perform someone who scraped in on bare minimum knowledge. Though not saying you can't get the opposite, someone who is all grades and can't actually do real work.

      Yeah, I tend to agree and there might be any number of reasons why somebody chose or chose not to work, and I think the older you get the less relevant the question becomes.

      Personally? I started working at Coles when I was 16 because I had some school excursion travel costs to pay for. Kept it up because I liked having money in the bank account, but my school work did suffer as a result. So according to that interview question I made the right choice but what if my not working resulted in a better uni entrance score and allowed me different career paths? Who is to say a non-working choice is better or worse?

      Well I suppose context is supposed to say that, but still. Silly question.

        You see!? We could have had warp drive to the stars by now but no... You had to go and get that lousy Coles job...

    "All relevant work history is included in my CV."

    I don't think having a junk mail delivery for $50.00 a week aged 16 counts as a *job*. Indentured servitude maybe, but not a job.

      I had a paper route (catalogue delivery) job at age 12. At age 15 I started working in fast food. Im sure it would count as brownie points in this kind of question.

    If your first job is listed on your resume, and they ask how old you were when you got it, they have breached Australian Law - they may be attempting to ascertain your age - discrimination in employment on the basis of age is prohibited (unless there is something about the position that demands the employee be of a certain age) and asking questions about your age is considered an indication that the employee plans to discriminate.

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